News

Ventura County declares local health emergency over COVID-19; Ojai public schools closed from March 16-20

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On Thursday, March 12, at 5:51 p.m., Ventura County Public Health declared a local health emergency in response to increased spread of novel coronavirus across the country; in alignment with the governor of California’s declared state of emergency and mass gathering guidance; and an increase of local cases. There are currently three travel-related cases in Ventura County. As of Thursday, 95 people have been tested by the Ventura County Public Health Lab for COVID-19, two results are pending confirmation, and 22 travelers are on home quarantine, according to Ventura County Public Health.
Moments later, Ojai Unified School District announced it will be open Friday, March 13, but will be closed Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20, and all OUSD sports practices and games are canceled next week.
Friday morning (March 13), Ojai City Counci declared a local emergency and canceled nonessential public meetings and some programs through March 31. This includes all commission and committee meetings for this month. City Council meetings will continue to be held, for the time being, and broadcast online and on television, as usual. The City Council will meet to ratify the declaration and discuss city response at 1 p.m. at City Hall, with phone-in access for the public.

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3 13 VCEMERGENCY COMMOUSD Superintendent Tiffany Morse stated in an email to OUSD families Thursday evening: "We hope to reopen on Monday, March 23, but that decision will be based on recommendations from Public Health depending on the circumstances at the time. We will update families about our plans no later than Friday, March 20. We understand that school closures have significant impacts on our students and families and we hope to resume normal operations as soon as possible."

Ventura County CEO Mike Powers said Thursday's emergency declaration for Ventura County "will enhance our ability to take further lifesaving actions as we continue to respond to this evolving health and safety threat. These actions will allow us to have even greater coordination to protect our residents and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We will continue to mobilize county resources, coordinate with agencies and partners and raise awareness about how everyone can take action to be prepared.”
Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin stated: “Although there is still no person-to-person transmission in our county, my first priority is to protect the public health of our residents by taking proactive measures. We encourage community members and organizations to do their part to help slow the spread of this virus. Our local healthcare system is well prepared to treat more cases should the need arise, particularly among vulnerable populations that require significant clinical care. Specific guidance documents allow each of us to take steps to be prepared, including personal actions that can make a difference in disease transmission."
The state’s public health experts have released new guidance that nonessential gatherings should be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social-distancing plans. The full policy can be viewed here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/Gathering_Guidance_03.11.20.pdf 
Ventura County is prepared to manage and investigate suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. Public Health will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local partners to provide healthcare providers and the public with accurate information about actions to be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to care for those who may become ill with this virus. As with other respiratory infections, there are steps that everyone can take to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, are:
    — Stay home if you are sick. Sick people make well people sick.
    — If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to go to a medical facility to see a doctor.
    — Certain patients, such as the elderly, those who are immune-compromised or have underlying health conditions should call their doctor.
    — Primary-care doctors are the point of contact for COVID-19 testing. You do not need to call Public Health to request COVID-19 testing. Your doctor will make the decision to test at one of the local private labs and if the test is positive your doctor will contact Public Health for confirmation.
    — If you have questions, please call the clinic or your doctor before going in. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 211 for assistance finding support near you.
    — Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    — Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    — Get immunized against the flu to protect yourself and your family, and reduce the potential strain on the healthcare system, which may be impacted by COVID-19 concerns.
Public Health is also asking businesses, schools, and community-based organizations to begin to implement plans that allow people to stay home if they are sick or vulnerable to the disease. This includes the option to work from home or to complete assignments remotely, where possible. The California Department of Public Health provides guidance on how to prepare and protect Californians from COVID-19. Ventura County Public Health urges organizations to review and implement guidance from CDPH.
Guidance can be found at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx. This includes guidance for:
    — Healthcare facilities, including long-term care facilities
    — Community care facilities, including assisted living facilities and childcare
    — Schools and institutions of higher education (Governor Newsom, during a press conference today, made clear that most K-12 schools will remain open).
    — Event organizers
    — First responders, including paramedics and EMTs
    — Employers, healthcare workers and workers in general industry
    — Healthcare plans 
    — Home cleaning with COVID-19 positive individuals
    — Guidance for Using Disinfectants at Schools and Child Cares 
    — Health care facilities from Cal/OSHA/Laboratories
    — Homeless Service Providers 

OUSD information

In her email to OUSD families, Superintendent Morse said schools will be open on Friday, March 13. She stated: "We have had no confirmed cases in our community and no suspected infections on any campus. We know that some of you will keep your students home Friday, March 13, as a precaution, but we also want to accommodate our working parents who do not have other arrangements.
"We are still working to evaluate events as they unfold on a case-by-case basis. At this time the musical ("Legally Blonde") is still scheduled through the weekend, but with social-distancing protocols, including limiting tickets to 50% of theater capacity. We will have more information March 13 regarding supports we can offer, including lunch distribution. 
"We do not make these decisions without enormous thought and input from county and state officials. We thank you for your understanding during this challenging time."
In a separate email, Morse shared additional information on steps the district is taking regarding the COVID-19 emergency and spring break: "Coronavirus will most certainly touch our community and our schools. We are ready and working through plans for possible scenarios and what we know will be a required change from our daily routines.
"We strongly urge parents to avoid any nonessential travel and re-evaluate spring break travel plans. If your family is planning to travel during spring break, we encourage you to please pay attention to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel advisories and guidelines for any updates regarding your destination. The CDC publishes a list of foreign travel advisories for coronavirus, which you can find here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
"If you do intend to travel internationally, we ask that let us know using this form — https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12J0dkd1f16bid7u0YD-LrjTCBSSp4iWn00njNEC1x8U/viewform?edit_requested=true — and follow health department guidelines. You may be asked by Ventura County Public Health to self-quarantine upon your return from one of the countries on the CDC list, accessible here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices. In addition, if you are traveling, please be aware that since this is a very dynamic and fluid situation, we do not know what travel restrictions may be enacted by the U.S. government over the next few weeks. It is entirely possible that you may end up traveling through a region (or an airport) that is added to the CDC watch list which would place your students into a 14-day mandatory isolation period upon your return.
"Currently, we have no students or staff members who have been identified as having COVID-19. OUSD has established protocols for managing school site health and safety should an exposure be identified. The California Department of Public Health has published the School Guidance document to clarify their recommendations, which you can read here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/School%20Guidance_ADA%20Compliant_FINAL.pdf
"Please know that the health and safety of our students and staff is our paramount priority. We are in constant communication with county health officials and the Ventura County Office of Education and will continue to provide you with additional information in the coming days and weeks. 
"I want to close by sharing how grateful I am to each and every one of you as we navigate this challenging situation together.

City of Ojai information

 

The city of Ojai issued a press release Thursday that it is "monitoring the situation closely and taking reasonable precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of our staff, residents, and guests."
On Thursday, Mayor Johnny Johnston announced that the city has canceled nonessential public meetings and some programs through March 31. This includes all commission and committee meetings for this month. 
For more detailed information, please refer to:
http://www.vcemergency.com/ 
https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx 
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts.html 
"As this situation continues to develop, we are continuing to evaluate the need to make additional modifications."
For now:
— City of Ojai regular office hours and business activities will continue as normal.
— City officials encourage email and phone communication. City offices can be contacted at 805-646-5581.  
"Note that there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as Novel Coronavirus."

Ventura County Community College District announces move to virtual classes

 

VCCCD Chancellor Greg Gillespie announced Thursday that, after monitoring the status of the coronavirus pandemic daily and consulting with and reviewing information from local, regional, state, and federal health agencies, Moorpark, Oxnard, Ventura colleges and Ventura College–East Campus will begin transitioning to virtual and alternative instruction for lecture classes beginning the week of March 16 through March 20. Following the weeklong transition, lecture classes will move to virtual and alternative instruction beginning March 23. Student services on campuses and other support resources — such as libraries, computer labs, food pantries and admissions and records — will continue to be open and available to students.
“We are initiating the changes to our classes out of an abundance of caution,” said Gillespie, who noted that there are currently no cases of COVID-19 at any VCCCD campus. “We value our students, classified staff and faculty and want to support everyone in their educational and work efforts by maintaining a healthy and safe environment.”
“We made the decision after thorough consultation with Ventura County Public Health, our educational partners in the community, the state Chancellor’s Office, and our academic, classified, and student leadership,” added Board Chair Bernardo M. Perez. “Moving to virtual instruction enables our colleges to continue meeting the educational needs of our students and our community, while implementing a proactive approach that addresses concerns about everyone’s health and well-being.”
Courses that do not readily fit into a virtual format — especially in career education areas and other specialized disciplines — will be excluded from the requirement. At this time, laboratory classes, performing arts courses and activity courses (physical education/kinesiology) will continue as scheduled while implementing social-distancing practices. Online courses and dual enrollment classes in the high schools will both continue as usual.
Virtual instruction will continue until April 6, which is VCCCD’s spring break. Classes are expected to resume April 13 and continue through the end of the semester. Due to the ever-evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district will continue ongoing assessment regarding student instruction.
Effective March 16 through April 13, all public events and other activities expected to draw 250 or more people to any VCCCD campus will be postponed, modified, or canceled. This is in accordance with the latest guidelines from California Department of Public Health on events and gatherings, which recommends increasing social distancing and limiting large events. The decision regarding canceling, modifying or postponing graduation ceremonies for the colleges will be made at a later date.
All interested community members are encouraged to visit VCCCD Alerts for comprehensive campus information and latest updates.

Public transportation

— Also on Thursday, Ventura County Transportation Commission released an update stating its buses continue to run as scheduled. Currently, our service is not affected by the coronavirus; however, should changing circumstances require us to adjust or cancel service, we will provide timely and detailed service information via email, our website, and social media.on precautions it is taking to limit the spread of coronavirus, including:

•Enhancing cleaning: We have increased frequency of cleaning on our fleets and at our ticket sales office to multiple times a day, including with every shift change. We utilize recommended disinfectants to wipe down surfaces and equipment, with specific emphasis on high touchpoints.
• Increasing supplies of antibacterial products: We have increased available supplies to staff and drivers, such as antibacterial hand‐sanitizer, wipes, and made them available throughout employee workspaces.
• Reinforcing good hygiene practices: We are sharing with employees (and passengers) the best ways to prevent against communicable diseases, as well as implementing social distancing techniques, when possible. Training and other materials are distributed throughout operations and will be revisited regularly by staff.

 

U.S. Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration also announced it will provide small businesses impacted by COVID-9 up to $2 million in disaster assistance loans. The S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. 

Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the president, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.
•Ventura County Public Health is encouraging all community members who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-9 to take actions to reduce their risk. Older adults, individuals with compromised immune systems, and individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or lung disease, are encouraged to practice social distancing. Such individuals are encouraged to avoid crowded settings, avoid people who are sick and avoid hugging or shaking hands.

Preventive actions for all community members include:

 — Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
 — Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
 — Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay away from large gatherings and crowds.
If you feel sick, please contact your doctor first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken. If you have an emergency, please call 9. Your personal doctor can answer questions about your health and circumstances.
Ventura County Public Health continues to urge agencies, businesses, school districts, organizations and healthcare providers throughout the County to prepare for social distancing.
The California Department of Public Health has state guidance on how to prepare and protect community members from COVID-9 at the following link. Also, found at www.cdph.ca.gov.   
Stay informed on local information at www.vcemergency.com
 

A list of informative websites on Covid-19:

— To view latest updates on Covid-19 for Ventura County, visit:

www.vcemergency.com 

— To view the Friday, Feb. 28, Covid-19 update from the Ojai Unified School District, visit:

https://www.ojaivalleynews.com/?view=article&id=17016

— To view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for Covid-19 updates, visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

— To view the CDC website on ways to protect oneself and others from getting Covid-19, visit:

https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/index.html 

— To view latest information on Covid-19 in California, visit California Department of Public Health:

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx 

To view medical updates on the WebMD website, visit:

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200124/coronavirus-2020-outbreak-latest-updates 

To view a list of countries with COVID-19 travel advisories, visit:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/about-our-new-products.html  

— To view guidance from the CDC to Ventura County Office of Education, to be disseminated to local school districts, visit:

https://www.vcoe.org/news/ArticleID/4714/coronavirus